Gadgets turned out to be no more harmful for teenagers milk and potatoes

Gadgets turned out to be no more harmful for teenagers milk and potatoes

More significant are the quality of sleep, bullying at school and Smoking.

Psychologists from the University of Oxford used a large (more than 355 thousand members) dataset with information about the life and health of adolescents, to test how the time spent using gadgets, associated with the mental state of youth. Using the statistical method of analysis of the curve of the specifications, they found that the technology only explain 0.4% of the variation in mental health of adolescents is about the same as the consumption of potatoes and milk. Article with the results of the work published in Nature of Human Behaviour.

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Quite often the problems with the mental state of teenagers decided to blame the gadgets: the use of social networking and various sites and video games. Scientific data on this matter vary: some of the work blamed video games in increasing the risk of suicide, American students, and associated abuse of social networks with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), while others argue that there is no connection between the fascination with violent games and increased aggression in adolescents.

Such studies require representative sampling: only using it to draw conclusions, which would have sufficient statistical significance and thus could be transferred to another population, then there would have high external validity. Large datasets in sociological and psychological studies are also important because allow to consider all possible side variables that can affect the result:

For example, if a scientist needs to trace the correlation between the use of gadgets as a teenager and his mental state, as a very important side of the variable he will have to use the socioeconomic status of his parents, the history they have themselves of mental disorders and their relationship with the child.

In other words, to use only some data on the social networks, watching TV and fascination with video games, on the one hand, and on mental health, on the other, it is impossible. In addition, when using large data sets cannot be considered the only level of importance: due to the large amount of data the difference between the compared groups can be statistically significant, but in real terms be very small and impractical value.

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Amy Orben (Amy Orben) and Andrew Przybylski (Andrew K. Przybylski) decided to use a statistical method which allows to empirically test the hypothesis and evaluate all the factors that can affect the dependent variable — the analysis of the curve spec (specification-curve anaysis). This method is a variation of the regression model and allows to test every possible valid hypotheses on quantitative data and not only those supplied by the researcher. In other words, instead of having to check the dependence between the use of gadgets and mental state, researchers were able to verify the dependence of the mental state from all the factors, which was available enough information.

For this, the researchers used several large data sets containing data on adolescents born in the beginning of 2000-ies in the USA and the UK: in total, the analysis used data on 355358 adolescents.

As an indicator of mental health, depending on dataset were used data on mental health of adolescents (including answers to questions like, “do you Think your life is meaningless?”), the suicide attempts and the level of loneliness.

As a result, scientists did find a statistically significant negative correlation between the use of gadgets and mental state, but she was very small. The authors calculated that this factor can explain only about 0.4 percent of the differences in mental health of adolescents from the sample: about the same influence on the rate of consumption of milk and potatoes, as well as wearing glasses.

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Variables that are in fact negatively associated with mental health of adolescents were Smoking cigarettes and marijuana, fighting and bullying, and among the positive factors, scientists have noted enough sleep, regular Breakfast and fruit and vegetable consumption.

The authors note the importance of considering all factors relevant to wellbeing and mental health of adolescents, and indicate that the use of gadgets may not be as dangerous as sometimes claimed. However, the authors emphasize that their analysis found only a correlation and from the data obtained it was impossible to highlight information about any cause-and-effect relationships: for this, at least, it is necessary to conduct long-term studies.